Director, Engineering Services
The City of Edmonton
As COVID-19 spread in early 2020, many employers shifted to work-from-home arrangements for their employees to limit the spread of the disease. But essential workers—engineers included, in some cases—continued to work from the office or from job sites.
“Engineers are integral to the ongoing functioning of society during any type of crisis, such as a global pandemic,” says Anjum Mullick, Director of Engineering Services for the City of Edmonton. “I have a diverse team of engineers, surveyors, scientists, and technologists that among other responsibilities, continue to execute crucial activities to support the continuance of the City of Edmonton’s capital construction program.
“The majority of my staff continue to deploy from a work location, go to construction sites, and return to complete lab testing or processing of data.
Some of her staff have been able to work from home, and with a mix of staff working from home and others on job sites, her team has had to increase their communication to stay connected.
And for those who continue to work from a job site, the pandemic has brought with it a host of other challenges that Mullick and her team have had to address: from proactively procuring much-needed personal protective equipment and disinfection supplies, to increasing disinfection procedures of workplaces and equipment, modifying shared workspaces to allow for physical distancing, and developing and implementing physical distancing procedures while working in teams in the field or our in-house laboratories.
While her and her team have been presented with these and other challenges throughout the pandemic, Mullick explains that engineers, by their very nature, are well-equipped to meet those challenges head-on, to adapt, and to evolve.
“Engineers are professional problem-solvers, and when safety hazards cannot be avoided, one of the key steps for mitigation are engineered controls,” she explains. “It is engineers that are leading the development of new technologies and modifying existing manufacturing processes to develop much-needed personal protective equipment and mobile testing equipment.
“Engineers will continue to play an integral role in risk mitigation as communities reopen and relaunch after the initial lockdown response to the pandemic.”
She hopes that her team’s experience throughout the pandemic—of continuing to work and being efficient even if not in an office—will lead to a change in the engineering profession.
“My hope is that the profession will not only become increasingly aware, but a leader in equity, diversity and inclusion, recognizing the importance and necessity of flexible work arrangements,” Mullick explains.
“The pandemic has shown that employees can be just as productive, if not more, in various flexible work arrangements.”